County seeks feedback

Carbon County Deputy Clerk Lisa Smith works with a voting machine Thursday at the Carbon County Courthouse. The county is currently seeking feedback from residents on how they would prefer the county host elections in the future. Residents interested in filling out the survey can go to www.carbonwy.com.

RAWLINS — The Carbon County Clerk’s Office is seeking feedback from residents in how to best-run future elections.

Carbon County currently allows registered voters to send in absentee ballots and organizes multiple voting precincts where residents can go to vote. That could possibly change in the future.

Carbon County Clerk Gwynn Bartlett told residents at a public meeting Wednesday evening county clerks around Wyoming are looking into ways they can save nearly half of the current expenses of the elections if they switched to a mailing system.

“We did a survey statewide that included our estimated cost by county for the 2016 presidential general election using traditional polling places and absentee ballots as we use now in the state,” Bartlett said. “And another estimate for if we mailed a ballot to (registered) voters and had one polling place in each county on Election Day. What we came up with was approximately 46 percent savings statewide.”

Bartlett further said states with a mail ballot system typically experience increased turnouts.

Bartlett said some of the biggest concerns with such system would be the perceived issue of fraud and distrust.

“They think the mail carriers are going to get all your ballots and throw them away,” she said.

In the event the state moved to allow such a system, the county would use the current process to count ballots.

“Somebody opens the envelope, passes it to the next person who separates them without looking,” Bartlett said. “The next person unfolds (the ballot), so they never get to see the envelope and who associates with the ballot.”

Bartlett told the attendees Oregon, Washington and Colorado have all of their ballots distributed by mail. The Wyoming County Clerks Association had visited Loveland, Colorado, and liked what they’d seen, she said.

“They show us how they send the ballots, how they receive them, how they verify the signatures, the safety and security of it.”

Bartlett also said the county could possibly be transitioning to a vote center system in which people can vote anywhere in the district.

“If you happen to be in Baggs on Election Day, you can vote down there,” Bartlett said. “You would still vote for your Rawlins ballot, but you could do it anywhere.”

Bartlett said while the system would give voters more freedom, the county would likely not close any polling locations due to the physical size of the county.

Bartlett said the biggest downfall to a voting center system in Carbon County is it would be difficult to tell who voted in different locations.

Carbon County Higher Education Executive Director Dave Throgmorton said he supported possibly moving to a mail ballot option in the future.

“It is like what you were saying early on in the conversation,” Throgmorton said. “Part of your charge is to run an efficient election. Efficient does not mean getting people through the line quickly, it also means spending your money properly.”

Throgmarton said 40 percent savings and an increase in people voting would be cause enough to support a mailed ballot system.

Residents interested in providing feedback on the proposed changes can fill out a survey at www.carbonwy.com.

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